When Gerry Erffmeyer, teaching pastor at Orland Park (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church, began to preach a series of sermons on desert experiences in early 1996, Kim Kuster could relate. Kuster had just lost several people close to her, left her job, and moved back to Illinois from Arizona.
Joe Kuster speaks at an OASIS support group session.
Then Corky DeBoer, at the time also a pastor with Orland Park CRC, encouraged her to start a support group for adults who are visually impaired and coping with sight loss. Soon after, God guided Kuster out of the desert.
Both Kuster and her husband, Joe, have visual impairments. Kim is legally blind, while Joe is completely blind. By April 4, 1996, OASIS for the Visually Impaired kicked off with four members.
OASIS became a nonprofit organization in 2003, providing support group sessions, rehabilitation training, and information and referral services for adults coping with severe visual impairments.
More than 500 individuals have been served; the group has become so large that it has split into two groups—one providing peer support for those who have been visually impaired for a number of years and another for those newly visually impaired. The support group sessions are held at Orland Park CRC.
“Kim and Joe have a passion to share with others what they have learned in living with a sight impairment,” said Erffmeyer. “Their desire to start this ministry fit perfectly with our church’s mission of ‘Reaching Out . . . Building Up’ in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Nearly all who attend the support groups or use the services of OASIS are from the community, but Orland Park CRC provides volunteers for transportation and also hospitality services. Each session begins with prayer, and Joe and Kim integrate their faith throughout the sessions with inspirational readings and discussions about faith. They have just recently begun a talking book club.
“We try to show [people] the love of Christ,” said Kim Kuster. “The people who come . . . come in with such a sad face because they feel they’re the only ones going through this, but they leave with a smile.”